October 21, 2012

We were happy to be underway again, and the weather favoured us. We left Lockwoods Boat Works under clear blue skies, and transited the two lift bridges without incident. We had to wait for three commuter trains to pass before they opened the Morgan Railroad Bascule Bridge, but when they did they coordinated timing and raised at the same time as the Highway # 35 bridge. The only trick for us was to try to hold in one place, in the small area between bridges, with 3 knots of current, waiting for seven sailboats to come through the road bridge first since boats against the tide have right of way.

Fall colour – Atlantic Highlands anchorage

Anyway, we made it through both bascule bridges and crossed Raritan Bay, noticing the fall colours in the trees around the bay – they had all been green when we came this way previously.  Our goal for the day was not ambitious – we planned to anchor in the lee of Sandy Hook, New Jersey, at Atlantic Highlands, for two reasons: (a) it was a suitable place to pick up Dave who was flying into Newark from Florida to crew for us and could get a ride there to meet us and (b) the aftermath of a passing hurricane was still causing  too much wind and waves (a small craft advisory was in effect) for the ‘outside’ Atlantic Ocean passage to Cape May or points further south.

Waiting for front to pass – Atlantic Highlands

In fact Atlantic Highlands was a great stop. We were able to rendezvous easily with Dave. We walked to a nearby coin laundry, grocery store and hardware store to do our weekly chores. Although we were anxious to finally get going after being grounded for so long, the Friday forecast was inclement as well, so we were holed up there the next day too, while rain and storms of a front moved through. Luckily, we found a great restaurant with free wi-fi and a good cheap lunch.

Although our friend Bernie advised we wait until Sunday for the seas to settle, we were anxious to get going. So when the forecast called for an earlier wind shift to a favourable direction, and seeing the bright clear day on Saturday, we decided to weigh anchor and get underway.

Lots of pleasure craft on the ocean near Sandy Hook

All seemed to be good. It was a lovely, relatively warm, sunny day, and, despite being late in the season, we saw more pleasure boats out than we had seen yet on this trip – mostly fishing pleasure craft, but also several sailboats heading in the same direction as us. However, after rounding Sandy Hook we started to experience the large after-storm swell, and some time later, the effect of opposing wind and waves on the South-West swell.

Surf breaking around Sandy Hook

Steve was the first to succumb and shortly after committing ourselves to an overnight passage (the days are short and there were only a couple of somewhat tricky inlets that we could anchor in before dark), Dave did too. I felt awful but managed to not feed the fishes and keep going. I stood watch till midnight and again from 5 am till we anchored. The seas were very choppy, but from about 5 pm on we had good steady wind out of the west so we were beam reaching all the way, travelling through the night at between 6 to 8 knots under a double-reefed main and staysail. I enjoyed standing watch during the starry night – the lights of several tugs towing barges offshore to my port side felt strangely companionable in the wallowing seas. Steve and Dave both rallied for the graveyard shift standing watch in turn between midnight and 5 am.

Sunset and sea foam

By the time I came aboard again for an early morning watch, we had just started to cross Delaware Bay and were 15 nautical miles offshore, so too far (and too dark still) to turn into Cape May. The whole night had been pretty rough, but crossing Delaware Bay was even worse – wind, waves and current all ganged up to for an onslaught on our beam, sending green-faced Steve back to his bunk.

Dave and auto on the helm!

The sun came up, as it tends too, making everything seem a little easier, and we finally crossed the mouth of Delaware bay into the lee of the land near Ocean City, where we decided to pull in and anchor for some well-deserved rest. And rest we did. The channel in through the breakwater branched right to touristy, built-up Ocean City. We left that and turned instead to port to a perfect anchorage – quiet, pretty and still as a mill-pond by the evening.

Peace and quiet – anchored near Ocean City

We were the only anchored boat there, and welcomed the peace and calm, and the return of appetites for some home-cooked food after we had cleaned up our passage-messy home. Undeterred, we plan another overnight ‘outside’ trip into Hampton tomorrow, leaving mid-day. The weather looks to be more gentle and we certainly hope so!

View our photo journal for the outside passage from Atlantic Highlands to Hampton.


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